礼品之路 ( Lǐpǐn zhī lù ) – The Gift of Resilience

I make my way to where bus 835 stops to let commuters disembark and embark as they are finding their way to places they need to be in this massive city.

Clad in summer shorts and sandals, covered by a red poncho, I ride my bicycle through our Village’s single main street, past  the breakfast shop, where the aroma of soft white steamed stuffed buns and boiled poridge soup greet me, under the ever busy railway line, where trains relentlessly find their way to and from Beijing,the knee-deep water, which has accumelated, to the entrance gate of Beijing Nationalities University, where I will abandon my bike to the care of a friendly guard who, in all his kindness,will see to it that I have a bicycle with which to make the two kilometre journey home, tonight, should I be fortunate enough to return.

We live as if our return trip is assured.

At the gate I bundle my poncho into the basket of my bike, engage the red u-shaped lock and unfold my umbrella, to cross the street where others also wait to get on the bus which will take us to Liuliqiao.

Everyone is wet.

Everyone is chattering excitedly.

Here and there I catch some meaning from their annimated conversations.

The bus is comfortable.  Soft seats. Curtained windows.  Air-conditioning.  It is almost like one of those Greyhound busses I’ve often seen in American Movies, but it is full.  We stand body to body.  My backpack between my legs.  My kindle held carefully, not to irritatingly bump the girl against whose back my elbows are pressed.  The guy behind me show me the same courtesy with his phone.  Everybody has something to entertain them on the 45 minute ride to the Subway Station.

We hit the highway.  Traffic is jammed.  Cars.  Busses.  Trucks.  They crawl forward.  Closer to the heart of Urban bustle.

45 minutes becomes 75.

It is unusual circumstances.

Public transport, is exceptional.

A little more than 12 million people call this place home.

8 million ride the subway every day.

The bus service delivered 5.2 billion rides in 2012.

In 2016 it surely delivers a few more.

All of it is spotlessly clean and meticulously on time.

Except today.

For typhoon-type rain has blown in from Taiwan and is washing everything spotlessly clean.

At Liuliqiao Dong streets are ankle deep in water.

Commuters either walk through the water or try to climb across bricks, high heel shoes, mini skirts, business suits drenched.

We need to get to work.

And we do.

It takes all 10 million of us a little longer, and everyone one of us is somewhat soggy as we clock-in at the front door.

We’re somewhat late as well, but employers understand.

Bosses and owners and managers in this vast expanse get to work in the same way cleaners and cooks do.

Make no mistakes.

On the congested streets there are Mercedes Benzes and BMWs and Proches.

They say there are 5 million registered cars.

Owning a car doesn’t mean you can get to the city with it and even if you could, taking the subway is most often quicker than trying to drive your way from one ring road to the next, to where the work is to be done.

As I stand with Kindle in hand, intimately squeezed between three fellow travelers, unaware whose legs are brushing against mine and whose hand is touching my but, I think about ‘resilience’.

Most of us are resilient.

Not just here in this massive City at the heart of Asia.

Everywhere.

We continue.

We get up.

We dress up.

We make our way to wherever we need to be.

In whatever way is available and affordable.

We do our work.

The best we can.

We go home.

Savour a bit of time with our family.

If we have family.

Or eat.

Sleep.

Pay.

For shelter.

And food.

For clothing.

And education.

If there is something left, we buy relief.

A movie ticket.

A book.

A game.

Something to lift us.

And most of us keep on doing this.

If we have children, they grow up.

And they head off.

And we keep on doing it.

And amidst the congestion we face the typhoons.

Stuff that breaks.

Illness, always inconvenient and unexpected.

And on top of the unavoidable demands we load aspirations.

Of something more.

Perhaps, as a carrot which helps to draw us forward, onward, through every next day.

Maybe my bicycle could be replaced by an Electric Scooter.

That’ll make life a little easier.

Maybe my 2 bedroom apartment can be switched with a 3 bedroomed one.

And I don’t know if this is resilience.

Reaching forward to a little more comfort, which is undefined in the smoggy cloud of life, while being beaten by fear.

Afraid that I will not have or will not be able to provide.

And as I herd onto the subway coach at line 9, heading towards Military Museum Station, where I will transfer to line 4, to transfer 3 stations later to line 2, to get off at Jishuitan and do my day’s work, I wonder about what it is that fills us with this ability to keep on living?

Keep on doing?

Keep on getting up and working and paying and sleeping and eating and getting up again and going on, keeping at it?

I realize it is impossible for me to see into the minds of the 8 million people alongside whom I travel.

I can’t even see into the being of the 7 people who so touchingly try to ignore the physical proximity with which we are saddled, inside the wagon, which transports us to the next place where we might depart, never to touch again.

I can only see into my own heart.

Dimly.

Knowing there was a time when my own resilience was fed by fear and aspiration and false hope of more.

A time when my resilience was depleted.

When I wished with everything inside of me that a great hand would end it for me.

End the relentless burdensome journey of expectations, filled with dissapointments and failures and unmeetable demands.

I know.

Then.

In that moment, as I lay curled in the heartless womb of a tiny bathroom, on the temperatureless wooden floor, there was no meaning to be seen.

Perhaps percieving meaning feeds our ability to not relent?

Yet, I was not borne from that little vestibule, because I was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of purpose or a fresh revelation of what the purpose of it all might be.

With laboursome groans I was drawn from that space by resilient love.

The love of a woman who did not care about a hope for more or even a future of less.

The love of a Being, Whom I’ve come to know anew as our Origin.

A Being Who kept on whsipering inside of me, despite my blasphemous profanities crudely shouted.

When we have 3, one is a lot.

A significant portion.

When we have 12 million, one is insignificant.

In time it might be the same.

A year quite long and vital, counted amongst the few years of a lifetime.

A decade or two quite short in terms of an eternity.

And I see Paul fashioning tents with his family, waiting.

And I see Moses tending his Father-in-Law’s sheep, for decades on end.

And I’m not suddenly filled with the megalomaniacle hope that somewhere in an unbearably long wait, suddenly something astounding like a burning bush might find me, but rather I’m convinced that the tending of sheep and the patiently making of tents have deeper meaning than the parting of seas or slapping a rock into spewing water.

This might be the biggest lie of a world beyond French and Industrial Revolutions and Religious Reformation and Enlightenment: that each and everyone who is, can and should be King and Pope and Master of Destiny and Doer of Extraordinary Feats and Achiever of Innumerable Accolades.

As if 8 million people could find their way to work even if there weren’t others who were willing to get up even earlier, to clean the busses and subway coaches and drive them?

As if Grocery Stores and Supermarket Shelves would magically fill themselves, without farmers and laborours who rise before Dawn to tend fields and livestock?

As if there is no meaning in being the driver of a bus or the tender of fields?

In being the stocker of shelves or the cook who carefully creates fried noodles day after day after day, to feed hungry workers?

My resilience repleted by being loved.

Fed, every next day, by coming to love.

My ‘self’ and that extraordinary woman who gave birth to me alongside our 4 children, the scars of labour certainly deep and lasting on her ‘self’.

Reminders of love.

But not only for my ‘self’ or her and our offspring of whom I’ve come to be one too.

Love, also, as fiercely, for creation.

For ‘us’, in all our diversity, originating from that single Origin, despite our devisive phylosophies bereft of wisdom.

How amazing we are!?

So brief and fragile.

So blind and fearful.

So hungry.

To be.

To live.

To find.

While all along we’ve been ‘found’ already.

So eager to give ourselves to the salvation of whatever is offered as the gateway to happiness and fulfillment, offering ourselves in return on the empty promises of delayed hopes.

While Hope is planted inside us.

The Spark of Them woven into our being, from before the beginning of our time.

It sounds a little poofy.

I apologise.

Yes, there was a day when I was empty of resilience.

It is okay.

We are all born of another.

Not one of us is the reason for our own existence.

How blind we are.

We come into being, not because we willed it.

It is the will of Another Who breathes us to life.

And in the end, for me, now, on this side of that heartless womb, a little along the way, slightly delayed, as we always are by toretnial rain, it is in Them that my own resilience is rooted.

In Their Love, splurged on me, through her from whose love I was born another time.

It sounds dramatic.

Sorry.

It is though.

Dramatic and exquisite.

For we all need to be born of each other, as we are born of Them, living our lives in connection, aware of the meaning of our own futile days and grateful for the meaning of everyone else’s daily resilience.

I live in love.

Drenched therin.

Coming to see this, and growing up to be this, is the strength of my resilience.

And so I hope, after all these words, that you too will be relieved, if you are not already, of the blindness which fills our world with suffocating darkness, as it cloaks the truth of ‘us’ in it’s smothering despair.

I hope that you will see Love.

The Love of our Origin from Whom we come.

Our Origin Who willed us into being, carefully weaving each one of us, as we are woven into our collective eternal existence.

I hope that you could find a less tired resilience.

Filled with meaning and value.

Tending sheep and making tents, unconcerned about bushes which may or may not explode into fire.

We all made it home again that evening too.

It took even longer.

My bicycle was still at the University’s gate.

My clothes, my backpack, my summer sandals – all of it was soaked.

And it dried out eventually.

And I slept in her arms.

In the warm embrace of our Source and Sourceror.

And I woke again.

And ate.

And worked.

And read.

And played.

And prayed.

Even finding time to scribble these words between, getting on and off busses and embarking and disembarking from subway lines and teaching 4 year olds to sing about pets they don’t have.

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